How to Learn French from (Children’s) Classics

Reading private French classesReading French books is a wonderful way to improve your French and to begin to understand the culture.  While reading Les Misérables or Les Plaisirs et les Jours in the original French is a noble undertaking, there are other classics that may be easier to start with first. Whether you are beginning to learn French or consider yourself nearly fluent, this is a list of books (in the order of difficulty) that most French people read first before moving onto the great classics:

Barbapapa: Barbapapa means cotton candy and is a popular children’s character from the 1970s. Written by a Franco-American couple living in Paris, the Barbapapa stories use simple sentences and bold drawings to tell the adventures of a metamorphic, blob-like family.  There are over 20 books of different stories currently in print that you can use to practice your French.

Petit Ours Brun: Another classic French character from the 1970s, Petit Ours Brun is a series of short illustrated stories about a little brown bear, his parents, and his friends. The simple stories are written to help small children with everyday activities, such as getting dress, taking a bath, visiting the doctor, etc… These stories are easy to read aloud to practice pronunciation and review simple grammar.

Babar: The elephant Babar first appeared in 1931 and has been entertaining French children ever since.  Babar is the story of a little elephant who flees the jungle after his mother is killed by a hunter. Definitely more difficult to read than the Barbapapa or Petit Ours Brun books, the Babar stories are still picture books, but with pages of text between the illustrations.

Le Petit Prince: A classic novella read by many students, Le Petit Prince is the most translated book in the French language. It is the story of a pilot who crashes in the desert and meets a young prince who traveled to Earth on a tiny asteroid. It is a short novel with small watercolor illustrations scattered throughout.

Le Petit Nicolas: Published in 1959, Le Petit Nicolas is a series of short books about the everyday adventures and mishaps of a little French boy, Nicolas. Written in the first person from Nicolas’ point of view, the stories are humorous parodies of the story-telling habits of little children. Simple, clever illustrations compliment each of the stories.


Are you interested in a private French lesson where we work from one of these books? Call or contact us to organize your lesson now.